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The coinage of the island of Britain was derived from that of the Belgic and other tribes of the opposite coast, some of whose chiefs held sway on both sides of the Channel. It is probably that the Britons of the southern coast began to strike gold coins in the last half of the second century B.C. The earliest specimens (uninscribed) show a laureate head on the obverse and a rude horse or chariot-group on the reverse. The types are clearly degenerate copies of the stater of Philip of Macedon, or rather of Gaulish imitations of that coin. From this prototype a number of distinct types gradually arose by means of successive imitations until, as Sir John Evans has shown (Num. Chron., xii. p. 127), their original was quite lost sight of. The silver, bronze, and tin coins are later than the gold; for, in accordance with the rule applying to barbarous nations on coming into contact with Rome, the more precious metal was by degrees discarded for coinage. Roman influence becomes otherwise prominent in the later issues, and the only inscriptions found on British coins are in Roman letters. When Caesar came to Britain he found (Comm. v. 12) that the natives used gold coins or iron bars (utuntur
The earliest coins attributed to Britain are found in the south-east district. They are of a flat fabric, and being also found across the Channel are attributed by some to Gaul. They are probably the coinage of Belgae on both sides of the water. There exist also cast tin coins of the same district. The earliest coins of more remote Britain are thicker and ruder than the Belgic gold. The horse is usually resolved into a meaningless group of pellets and lines in the Midlands he becomes a boar. The types sometimes wear out altogether on the die of the obverse, which presents merely a convex surface. The earliest inscribed coins belong to the second half of the first century B.C. They are found in the south-east, and bear the names of Tincommius, Verica, and Eppillus, apparently sons of that Commius who retired from Gaul before the Romans in 51 B.C. (Caesar, Comm. vii. 48). Some of the coins of these princes show distinct Roman influence in their types. All struck gold and silver; Eppilus, the latest of the three, also bronze. In the Central District the chief tribes are the Catuellani (capital Verulamium) and the Trinobantes (capital Camulodunum). These had an early uninscribed currency; but in the Roman period there is a more important coinage with the names of Tasciovanus (who began to reign in circ. B.C. 30) and his son Cunobelinus (Cymbeline). Many of Tasciovanus’ coins were struck at
The weight of the British gold stater (excluding pieces possibly Gaulish) is usually well under 100 grs., ordinary pieces weighing 85 to 80 grs. The silver coins weigh 24 grs max.
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